As we age we’re faced with a variety of issues including cognitive decline such as memory, flexibility and learning. A recent study found that THC can positively impact learning and memory functions in older mice. The German research team found sufficient evidence that low-doses of THC can prevent and improve age-related cognitive decline in elders. Studies like these open a new door for conversations surrounding ways in which marijuana can ultimately replace traditional big pharma drugs.
Endocannabinoid System and Ageing
The Endocannabinoid system is responsible for a multitude of functions in our bodies from immunity to reproduction, it is also what responds to cannabis consumption. As the brain ages, the endocannabinoid system weakens, this is believed to be what leads to cognitive decline such as memory loss and learning abilities. The CB1 receptor, which is what responds to the classic effects of THC is also responsible for the maintenance of homeostasis in disease and health. Along with the number of connections between brain neurons, these receptor levels decrease as we age. This loss of connection, in turn, leads to an overall decrease in cognitive function. Very few clinical studies show the direct beneficial effect of cannabinoids on the endocannabinoid system, specifically ageing in humans, thus rendering the connection to be relatively inconclusive at the moment.
The study, conducted in spring 2017, analyzed both old and young mice over a 28 day period during which they were administered a consistent low dose of THC. After the 28 days, the mice were tested on several cognitive tests such as memory, learning and mental flexibility (the ability to adapt to changing instructions). During the test no THC was present in the mice’s system, allowing the scientists to analyze effects specifically after chronic cannabis use. Normally older mice perform significantly worse when compared to young mice, however, after the 28 day period of THC administration, it was found that the old mice had similar brain functions as the younger THC free mice. Surprisingly, the young mice who were administered THC had impaired `and incredibly poor performance. In the older mice, it was found that THC increased the number of connections made in the hippocampus, a brain region in charge of learning, memory, stress and anxiety. The study concluded that with low dosage administration the old mice performed similarly to young mice. Incorporating low dosage cannabis can help encourage healthy cognitive ageing, and positively impact gene expression patterns.
It is important to note that the THC was administered and not consumed through smoke or other traditional ways of using cannabis. The low dose which was given is also up for question, rodents tend to have a much higher tolerance towards psychoactive substances than humans. If the same dose was administered to a human of 150 pounds, it would equal to one edible an hour, everyday for 28 days, which to the average user is much more than a low dosing. Humans and rodents metabolize cannabinoids in different ways at different rates, which is why it is vital to take caution and not jump to conclusions when analyzing studies like this. Another important note is how differently the older and younger mice were affected, a reminder that the effects of cannabis vary greatly between users. While the definition of a low dose for a human and a mouse may be different, cannabis consumption for elderly has positively shown to relieve and aid with many issues from cognitive function, pain and insomnia.
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